More than 20% of working age adults in the UK live with some form of disability, including almost half of over 65s. That’s about 14 million people. Human beings are resilient creatures, and many surprise themselves with their adaptability.
For many, the bigger challenge is a psychological one. Whether aged 20 or 90, it can be frustrating to rely on others to carry out the daily activities you once took for granted.
Mobility aids have existed for centuries, but, in recent years, technological innovations have made it possible for those living with any degree of immobility to enjoy freedom and independence on their own terms. Such aids also take some of the pressure off family members, who can rest assured that their loved ones are able to live as they wish without worrying that they are putting themselves in danger or struggling to cope.
Incredibly, the first wheelchairs are believed to have been invented in around 600BC. Stone carvings originating in both China and Greece clearly show people conveyed on wheeled devices.
Wheelchairs have evolved with the times, but the biggest breakthrough in terms of boosting independence was the introduction of powered chairs in the late 20th century.
Powered wheelchairs evolved rapidly over the past couple of years. AXUS powerchairs provide a great example of the advanced mobility technology that is now available in 2022. These are a far cry from the chairs that were available even a decade ago in terms of comfort, practicality and performance.
AXUS has developed five models of powerchair, all of which use the latest battery technology and power-efficient motors to offer a range of more than 20 miles on a single charge.
There is something to suit everyone. For example, the ultra-compact AX3 is just 50cm wide with a mid-wheel configuration that allows it to turn on the spot! It means effortless mobility even in a small house or flat where space is at a premium.
The AX5, on the other hand, has a high-power motor and specially designed suspension that can handle uneven terrain. Ideal for outdoor adventurers who want to spend time in nature without the need for a friend or carer in attendance.
Each model can be further customised in various ways, such as colour, seat width and extra features. AXUS offer home consultations as standard to help customers make the right choice.
Traditional Manual Mobility Aids
Powerchairs are highly versatile, helping users remain independent around the house, at work, whilst shopping and enjoying leisure pursuits. However, powerchairs represent just one of a range of mobility aids that can give you the confidence you need to remain independent.
For those who can walk unaided but are a little less steady on their feet, fear of falling can be debilitating. In this case, manual aids from traditional sticks and canes to rollators provide that extra bit of support to boost confidence, as well as making walking easier and reducing the risk of falls.
At the other end of the spectrum, mobility scooters literally go the extra mile. They are predominantly for use outdoors or in accessible indoor environments like supermarkets. Sime offer incredible performance and features, especially those designed for both road and pavement use. With a maximum speed of 8mph and a range of more than 30 miles, the world really can be your oyster.
Other mobility scooters, known as travel scooters, have more modest performance credentials but can be easily separated in into four or five lightweight parts without the need for tools. They are designed for easy transportation by car, train or even plane.
Limited Mobility Doesn’t Mean Limited Freedom
Reduced mobility, whether through injury, illness or disability can add extra complications and frustrations to everyday life. However, one positive aspect is that modern technology has brought us a range of mobility aids we couldn’t have even imagined a generation ago.
Make no mistake, everyone needs a helping hand sometimes, whether disabled or not. It is wonderful to have family, friends and carers to lend support. But, it is equally important to have the freedom and independence to live life on our own terms.
Mobility aids like powerchairs, rollators and scooters make this possible for millions of people, eliminating the need to rely on the support and assistance of others.
The former doesn’t sound very exciting, and it isn’t, but as anyone with a disability or chronic illness knows, there are many ongoing battles to be fought.
I met with various doctors, occupational therapists, and mobility equipment reps. I even managed to recruit a new carer, not easy in the current climate, to drive me from place to place in my Motability WAV (wheelchair accessible vehicle).
My powered wheelchair, partly held together with gaffer tape, continues to fall to pieces, and is now in need of new batteries.
Why do they suddenly decide to fail, without warning??
This is all the more challenging since it isn’t a NHS chair, and so I am responsible for sourcing and funding repairs.
Despite actively bidding online and pursuing a move for over a decade, I still live with my parents in their home – far from ideal for any 33 year-old!
Finally, after a consistent bombardment of calls and emails, community housing managers agreed to meet with me in person.
Though empathetic, they openly admitted it is very much a postcode lottery issue, (I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that excuse). Consequently, it could take years to rehouse me!
I will persevere and hope for the best, while maintaining realistic expectations.
On a happier note, May provided some space for myself, as my folks took a little staycation.
People often misunderstand my need for solitude. Then again, these people have their own homes and the freedom to do as they please, when they please. It’s about freedom of choice and being able to live life on my terms.
As tiresome and frustrating as it is, this is the reason I battle with medical professionals, OT’s, community housing, social services, and so on – for a better quality of life!
This stylish food preparation board, made from sustainable Rubberwood, is a multi-purpose, top quality kitchen aid.
I was so impressed with this piece! It is really attractive and doesn’t look at all like a standard disability aid.
It is designed for those with weak hand function, including impaired grip, poor hand control and tremors.
Using only one hand, the Easi-Grip board allows you to grate and slice food effortlessly. The spiked area ensures food is kept in place for peeling and cutting.
Several essential items all-in-one: Stainless steelfine/coarse graters, slicers, collecting bowl, spiked area, and long-lasting wooden board.
I have muscular dystrophy ~ contractures, poor grip, and very little strength. Despite this, I found the Easi-Grip food prep board really easy to work with, and a huge asset. I no longer need to ask for any help, which is a big deal for me!
My mum, who has osteoarthritis, loves this equally as much as me! Suffering with joint pain and stiffness, she found it significantly easier to use than regular kitchen tools.
This popular trio of knives has undergone a recent design revamp – the ergonomic handles are now thicker, making them easier and more comfortable to use.
The bright lime green areas indicate the “soft-feel” non-slip areas, as well as making them a bit more modern and aesthetically appealing compared to standard kitchen knives!
I would highly recommend all of these products to anyone, regardless of (dis)ability. They are top quality items and I am so thankful to Manage At Home and PETA [UK] LTD for sending them to me. I love to cook, and these kitchen aids have made life a little easier for me.
This post is in collaboration with Manage At Home and PETA [UK] LTD. The products were gifted to me in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed are entirely my own.
As a non-ambulatory wheelchair-user for the past two decades, I’ve experienced many frustrating encounters with lifts/elevators.
~ Being unable to fit inside because they’re occupied by physically fit (lazy, ignorant) able-bodied people
~ Getting stuck in them (once on a very old ferry!)
~ Getting stuck out of them (broken/out of service)
~ Waiting, waiting, waiting…
As a teenager, I went shopping to my local TJ Hughes store (super cool!), which was on three floors. It was a crappy old lift but nevertheless I travelled to the top floor because, well, I wanted to!
When I came to use the lift again, it wouldn’t work – it was completely unresponsive.
Unable to walk at all, I was stranded on the third floor in my manual wheelchair.
More than a little irritated, I started hammering the call button on this lift, “you WILL bloody work!!”
At this point, I was left with no other option than to be manually carried down two flights of stairs by a member of staff. Talk about awkward!
Well, it was either that or, frankly, I’d probably still be stuck there now.
Thankfully, I’m teeny tiny, my wheelchair was lightweight and foldable, and the guy who carried me was young and smelt amazing! I was tempted to ask what he was wearing but thought better of it. I’m not that weird…
It was fortunate that I wasn’t in my current powered wheelchair. If I had been, I honestly don’t know what would have happened…forever stranded in TJ Hughes!
It’s a memory that’s imprinted on my mind. It shouldn’t have happened, it was annoying, undignified, embarrassing and yes, at the time, I was thoroughly pissed off!
Although, on reflection, it is pretty funny. Got to laugh, right!
Of course, it made me wary of using lifts in the future. But I really don’t have a choice! I’m not going to avoid them and miss out just in case something bad happens.
It’s inconvenient at the time but always resolvable.
IF I do ever get stuck again, well, then I’ll worry about it…IF.
Side note ~ If you are fit and able, and have two fully-functioning legs, please use them! Kindly take the stairs and let those in need access the lifts/elevators. Ta muchly!
I cannot fault their customer service or the assessor who bought a number of demo chairs to my home to try prior to purchase. He was very knowledgeable, patient and not at all pushy (as some sales rep’s can be).
However, I find the quality of the armrest pads to be extremely poor.
As you will see from the image below, to replace them will cost an additional £83.40 – a rather hefty sum to replace an item on a relatively new powered wheelchair!
I am reluctant to pay the £83.40 to replace the armrest pads, particularly as they are likely to disintegrate again within a few months. In the meantime, I am left with an unsightly product that is literally falling to pieces.
Wealden Rehab Equipment Specialists share the benefits
of having an Occupational Therapist in the team
Care equipment specialist Wealden Rehab works alongside in-house and external qualified occupational therapists (OTs).
Our in-house OT, Gayle Cardwell has 20 years experience, benefiting the team with clinical skills that can
be transferred into private practice. The collaboration between care equipment
providers and clinical experts results in a truly personal service.
Gayle offers her knowledge and understanding of both mental and physical health and wellbeing to the product advisors at Wealden Rehab, emphasising the importance of a personal approach being necessary to achieve the best
Assessing each client holistically encompasses the environmental considerations, which improve solutions for installation of ceiling hoists and
more detailed clinical considerations for seating.
Upon prescribing a piece of equipment, the occupational therapist must clearly show their clinical consideration. Gayle has devised and shared documents to encourage clinical reasoning when prescribing Wealden Rehab’s most popular
products. The documents are aimed at prescribing OT’s to consider the individual, environment, the task and to help justify the most appropriate outcome for the end user.
Gayle has provided a rigorous training program for all of Wealden Rehab’s product advisors, through individual and group training sessions. Her ongoing program is designed to enhance the assessments and the training they offer to their customers, which brings extra value.
Wealden Rehab recognise the
significance of having an OT in the team and a clinical approach in devising and delivering training for OT customers when prescribing Wealden Rehab products. We have observed increased confidence, greater understanding from OT’s in the
set-up and recommendation of our products, resulting in improving the end users
In the future, Wealden Rehab will be adding to the range
of products and, with specialist input, Gayle will be able to critique and share her clinical knowledge regarding new products. This will surely have an impact on the quality of life of many users, which is, Gayle says, ‘At the heart of
everything we do.’
He attended university, completed a placement year, works full-time, started his own business, and is now on the Great Britain Air Rifle Talent and Development Squad. Josh is able to drive a wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) and has lived independently since leaving his parental home at 18.
1. University ~ Can you tell us about the process of putting a care package in place and living independently as a disabled student?
During my last year of college, I expressed an interest in going to university. After research with my social worker and factoring my needs and desires, we identified appropriate universities that fit my criteria. I then had to decide on a live-in carer or a care agency. I opted for the agency route in order to be as independent as possible.
Once accepted by the university, I sorted accommodation and started looking for care agencies. My social worker provided me with a list of care agencies registered with the CQC, but it was down to me to make arrangements. The first care agency turned out to be unpleasant! So, after 4 months, I switched to another agency who I remained with for the duration of my university experience.
2. How was your overall university experience?
My overall uni experience was, let’s say, fruitful! From falling asleep in my wheelchair in front of the mirror to having university staff put me to bed within the first week because I was so drunk. It was clear that I was going to make the most of my 3 years at uni!
I got involved with numerous societies and activities to keep myself active and included with the student culture. I had a fantastic time and never experienced any discrimination or abuse. The staff made me feel at ease, allowed me to be as independent as possible, and provided access to necessary resources.
I graduated with a first class honours in IT Management and Business and, 4 years after graduating, I was invited back to receive an Honorary Masters in Technology.
3. You carried out an internship with Hewlett Packard during your studies, and then worked as a cyber security manager. What, if any, challenges did you encounter in finding employment and how does your disability affect your working life?
The general employment process with assessment days, face-to-face interviews and telephones interviews were fairly seamless. Most employers are extremely accommodating if you give them notice and make them aware of your access needs.
I do remember one assessment day with a popular car manufacturer where the activities impacted my ability to take part due to my physical requirements. This may have affected their decision to not employ me, even though I was just as capable, if not more so, than the other candidates. But apart from that, I have not had any issues finding employment.
Obviously, my disability limits me physically. However, as I work in technology it does not affect my ability to do my job. Yes, working full-time is not easy for me, but it’s also important to remember it’s not easy for able-bodied people either.
I have always been the sort of person who just gets on with it. I also believe that with technology making everything more accessible for disabled people, in most cases, our disability should not affect our ability to work. If you have any employer with an inclusive work culture, who is willing to support, understand and give you flexibility within the work place, then for sure you can work!
4. You returned to university to speak to students about entrepreneurship, and inspire them to start their own businesses. How did this make you feel and why do you think it is so important to encourage other disabled people to pursue any entrepreneurial aspirations they may have?
This gave me a sense of achievement and fulfilment. I believe that sharing experiences, whether positive or negative, helps others to follow their own passions and aspirations.
There is a general consensus that employment for disabled people is difficult to find, and arguably this could be due to the lack of inclusive employers. This is what makes the entrepreneurial world an attractive proposition for disabled people – it is flexible, offers them ability to work around their needs, and also avoids the hardship of being in a culture that is not disability confident.
5. You ventured into self-employment and founded AbleMove. Why was this so important to you?
I have always wanted to start my own business. When I realised I could create a product to make travel more assessible for disabled people, it was a no-brainer decision for me.
When you’re working on something you’ve created and can see the life-changing benefits, there is a real feeling of fulfilment.
Winning the award gave me a sense of personal achievement and recognition. It gave me a fresh perspective on developing my own business and the benefits it can provide versus working for a large company.
The prize money and a business deal with easyGroup Ltd enabled me to give up my full-time job in order to pursue my own business. This allowed me greater flexibility regarding how I manage my disability.
7. Prior to winning the award, you had to move home and rent within the private sector. What challenges did this present?
The challenges with the private rent sector (PRS) are vast, especially given almost 85-90% of PRS homes are inaccessible for wheelchairs.
After applying for the Stelios Awards, I was told I had to move out of a good sized two bed apartment due to the landlords requiring their property back. Having lived there for 3 and a half years, it was time to start the dreaded challenge of finding a needle in a haystack.
It’s purely pot luck if you can find an accessible house to move into straight away that doesn’t need any adapations.
After fighting with the council and various estate agents, we eventually managed to find a property on rightmove. Now, when moving home I need to consider carers since I rely on them throughout the day. My main PA (personal assistant) was unable to continue working for me, and so I had to re-jig and was then only able to maintain one PA.
Finding an accessible property and then having to manage your care situation around it is extremely stressful, tiring and irritating. On top of this, I was working full-time, getting the business of the ground, doing weekly exercises and training for the Great Britain Shooting Talent and Development Squad.
8. Can you tell us about your invention, the easyTravelseat. What is it and how does it benefit disabled people?
My travelling experiences involve being manhandled from wheelchair to aisle chair and then manhandled again onto the aircraft, which is highly undignified and uncomfortable. I therefore sought to create something that would help me travel in a more comfortable and dignified manner.
The easyTravelseat is a sling/seat combination that is designed to work as an in-situ piece of equipment. It is placed in your wheelchair, and you then remain seated in the easyTravelseat until you reach your destination.
For instance, when flying, you would remain comfortably and securely seated within the easyTravelseat for your entire journey through the airport, onto and during your time on the aircraft and off again.
Once I created it, I realised the many benefits it offers disabled people. It allows users to travel in a more safe, dignified and comfortable way, on all modes of transport. Furthermore, it opens up leisure opportunities such as canoeing, kayaking, skiing and so on. The easyTravelseat enables users to be transferred quickly and easily without having to be manhandled. The user is comfortably seated with their own cushion, a gel pad or foam.
9. Where did the idea for the easyTravelseat stem from, and what did the development process involve?
The development process involved researching the types of equipment already available, and the demand for such a product. I conducted market research to determine whether wheelchair-users would find the product useful. Then we identified a concept and progressed to prototyping in order to test how the seat would work. We then moved on to the point of manufacturing the seat and getting the required medical marking and approvals in place. During this process we had been working initially with airports around the lifting side of the device, including our sling manufacturer and then an airline. We started production in February 2019.
10. Does the easyTravelseat cater for disabled people of all shapes and sizes?
The easyTravelseat will cater for the majority of disabled users with the exception of very young children, bariatric passengers or people with extreme contoured seating.
11. How does the easyTravelseat compare with similar products on the market, such as the ProMove sling or the NEPPT Transfer Evacuation Sling Seat?
The difference with the easyTravelseat is the specific design and application of use for aircraft, whilst ensuring passenger comfort. It allows users to be moved around the aircraft, including during an emergency, and to then disembark the aircraft in a much safer, dignified and comfortable manner. All other slings are designed to be removed and offer no protection or comfort when in-situ.
12. What other assistance do you think airlines could and should be offering to disabled passengers?
I think the most important area airlines should be focusing on in the immediate is the loading of wheelchairs, both electric and manual, to prevent damage. It also concerns me the people on the ground lifting these wheelchairs are at risk of causing serious damage to themselves. There is industry equipment to load wheelchairs onto an aircraft without having to manually lift a wheelchair. This would help the loaders and reduce the amount of damage to both the chairs and the airport staff. Also, a secure area in the hold may also be advantageous to prevent luggage damaging wheelchairs during turbulence.
I also think the UK should be pushing (as Canada has done successfully) the airlines to provide free tickets for a carer when flying with a disabled person. After all, the airlines make it a necessary requirement for WCHC passengers who cannot move without any support to fly with a personal assistant/carer.
Airlines should also be addressing the toileting situation inside the cabin too. It is currently impossible for the majority of disabled passengers to access the toilet whilst flying.
Regarding hidden disabilities, there are those who are much more calm when they are surrounded by objects which are all different colours.
Long term, all airlines should be looking to allow wheelchair-users to remain seated in their wheelchair, inside the cabin, during the flight.
13. What does the future hold for you and your business?
The future is bright for easyTravelseat! We are off to a steady start with interest across the globe. We believe in an accessible aviation world and are able to provide an immediate solution to help reduce some of the significant problems with maintaining safety, dignity and comfort when flying with a wheelchair.
We will now look to ensure easyTravelseat is easily accessible in as many countries across the globe as possible in the coming years.
I’m a 30 year-old woman with Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy. Consequently, I am a non-ambulatory wheelchair-user. I can’t use a regular bath or shower, and therefore need to make adaptations and use appropriate mobility equipment.
Bath vs Shower
Generally speaking, most disabled people, particularly wheelchair-users, prefer a level-access shower room to a bath. Personally, I’ve always loved to sit and soak in the bath. I find it relaxing and therapeutic as it helps to ease any tension in my muscles. So, for the past 20 years, I have used various bath lifts, including the Aquatec Orca Bath Lift.
Bellavita Recliner Bath Lift
The Bellavita is quick and easy to assemble. Compared to other bath lifts, it is much lighter in weight (9.3 kg) and therefore easier to remove from the bath for cleaning and travel. This does not make it any less sturdy than other similar models, and can support users of up to 140 kg/22 stone.
I was impressed by the sleek, compact design which is both aesthetically pleasing and practical. It is certainly less bulky than other reclining bath lifts I have tried, thereby freeing up more space in the bath to stretch out.
The side guards are detachable for user preference. This does not affect the function or stability of the bath lift.
The overall length of the Bellavita is only 57 cm – much shorter than most other bath lifts. For me, this is definitely a big advantage and something I look for. The fact that it is so comparatively small, lightweight, easy to remove and install means that it can be folded up and stored away if necessary and transported in smaller vehicles.
The entire chair, including the easy-to-use hand controller is fully waterproof. The buttons are large, brightly coloured, and easy to press, even for those with very little strength.
The Bellavita includes a non-slip, comfortable seat cover in either blue (as seen in my photos) or white, which is wipe clean and effortlessly removed.
It is recommended to charge the Bellavita Bath Lift after every use, though I find once a week is enough.
As the name suggests, the Bellavita Recliner Bath Lift reclines! Though some other bath lifts claim to do this, the Bellavita reclines to 50°. As a result, you feel like you’re able to make full use of the bath rather than being restricted.
One of the biggest advantages of this particular bath lift is that it is the lowest available! The seat, when fully lowered, is only 6cm from the base of the bath, meaning that you feel fully submerged and ultimately use less water to fill the bath.
I would definitely recommend the Bellavita Recliner Bath Lift to anyone with impaired mobility who still wants to enjoy the luxury of a bath.
The team at ManageAtHome have been fantastic ~ extremely professional, supportive, friendly and efficient. Check out their website to view the full range of products available!
I’ve noticed a lot of discussion, within Facebook groups, around the topic of walking versus the use of a wheelchair.
Many disabled people gradually lose the ability to walk over a period of time. Often it occurs in stages: from independent mobility, to the need for walking sticks, then a frame and finally a wheelchair.
I appreciate that for the individuals affected, it is an incredibly difficult decision to make. Do I continue to walk for as long as possible, despite the struggle and restraints? Or, do I resign myself to the confines of a wheelchair?
I have noticed, from comments on social media, that this is how some view wheelchairs: objects of confinement and restriction.
On the contrary, I see my wheelchair as an essential mobility aid, removing the limitations I faced when walking for only short durations. The powered chair I now use offers me freedom and independence.
Obviously, your condition and individual circumstances determine whether or not you have the option to continue walking.
Personally, I never had a choice. I have Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy and lost the ability to walk quite abruptly at the age of 10. Not that I could walk very well or very far up to that point.
Nevertheless, the choice was taken from me. I had reached a stage where I literally couldn’t support my own weight. Grit and determination played no part. And so, I went from walking minimal distances whilst wearing leg splints, to using a manual wheelchair that I couldn’t self propel due to a lack of strength and joint contractures. Sticks and frames were of no use to me whatsoever.
It was a difficult transition, of course. But not totally unexpected. As a child, I was offered little assurance of how my condition would progress. Doctors simply didn’t know. They couldn’t tell me if I would maintain my ability to walk or not. It was a case of, wait and see; roll with the punches. So that’s what I did.
To be honest, I was to a large extent relieved to be using a wheelchair, despite the fact I was dependant on others to manoeuvre me around. Even just a few small steps was a huge feat and physically laborious. That in itself was disabling me.
Committing to a wheelchair full time meant that I was free to roam with my peers. Kids at school used to squabble over whose turn it was to push me around. I was no longer exhausted, battling to stay on my feet or falling over and injuring myself. Being non-ambulant, I no longer had to wear those unsightly leg splints, which pleased me no end!
I had recently started middle school and, within a matter of a few weeks, I found myself completely unable to weight-bear.
However, less than twelve-months later, I was fortunate enough to benefit from my first powered wheelchair. I can’t emphasise enough how much of a difference this made to my life.
I could zip around at break times with friends, I could take myself wherever I wanted to go without the need for assistance, and I could venture into the local countryside. I was no longer confined!
It’s been eighteen years since I took my last footstep. And, I can honestly say I don’t miss walking. Naturally, I wish I could stand, walk and run ‘normally’. But I would never trade my wheelchair for my old leg splints, the bumps and bruises from falling so often, and the constant exertion to achieve a few small steps.